A Brief History of the Azerbaijan - Armenian Conflict

 by Nicholas Sachon

 In the Fourth Century, the transcaucasian area, consisting of what is now Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, Christianity was the main religion.  By the mid-Seventh Century, the area of what is now Azerbaijan fell to the conquest of the Arabs, and a conversion to Islam was the result.  This territory became a province of the Muslim empire.  In the Eleventh century, the Oghur Turks under the Seljuk Dynasty entered the country and infused their Turkish dialect into an otherwise Persian language.  It was the base of what is now the Azerbaijan language (Brittany Net).  This brief review is important to set up a certain "national identity" which plays a major role in the conflict with neighboring Armenia.  The other major role in this equation is the Russia and what would become the Soviet Union.  By 1828, Russia had annexed, or been awarded by treaty, all the lands of Georgia, and Azerbaijan, and most of Armenia (Virtual Azerbaijan).  The history of Russian involvement in the area furthers the basis for the future conflict.

In 1724, Tsar Peter I issued a decree that involved peoples of Armenia in aiding Russian territorial expansion through the Caucuses to the Caspian Sea.  Following the Russian conquest and the conclusion of the treaty at Edrine a hundred years later (1829), over 90,000 Ottoman Turks were resettled to Azerbaijan.  Between the years of 1828 and 1920, it is estimated that 560,000 Armenians were resettled in Azerbaijan (Library of Congress).  This type of vast migration led to the separation of heavily Armenian-settled areas from the rest of Azerbaijan.  In the Nineteenth Century, Russian officials created an Administrative Unit in Armenia called the "Armenian Oblast."  These newly separated areas were incorporated into that unit.   

Armenian expansion into Azerbaijan continued into 1918, and the Azerbaijani government was forced to cede territory, which was part of the Erivan district, to Armenia.  Even after the creation of the Azer. Soviet Socialist Republic, the new leaders did not demand the territory back, opting instead to side with the Russian central authorities, whose intentions toward Armenia were already clear. 

The main focus of modern conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia focuses on the autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh.  This territory was artificially established by the Bolsheviks.  Its population consisted of 73.4 percent Armenian and 25.3 percent Azerbaijani.  Because of the Soviet/Armenian influence, this area developed faster than the rest of Azerbaijan under Soviet rule (Library of Congress).  A major concern developed February 20, 1988 when the Armenian government voted to unify the Nagorno-Karabakh region with the rest of Armenia.  This triggered an Azerbaijani massacre of 100 Armenians in the city of Sumgait, just North of the town of Baku.  Armenia retaliated with a similar attack against Azerbaijanis occurring in the Armenian town of Spitak (Virtual Azerbaijan).  The result was huge movements of refugees.

In the fall of 1989, intensified fighting forced Russia to grant more power to the Azerbaijani authorities; but the policy backfired.  A short-time later, the People's Front of Azerbaijan (PFA) was in a position to take power from the Soviets in their country.  This did not occur because of internal conflict and the split of the PFA into two opposing factions:  Conservative-Islam and the moderate.  Increased anti-Armenian violence, especially around the city of Bakh, followed (Virtual Azerbaijan).  

 In January of 1990, Moscow was forced to intervene amidst ever-growing Azerbaijani protests.  On August 30, 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh was proclaimed independent, and the last party chief, Ayaz N. Mutalibov became the new President.  Despite Russia's involvement, in December of 1991, local Azerbaijanis were denounced and an independent state of Nagorno-Karabakh was created, approved, and a Supreme Soviet was elected.  By early 1992, this territorial conflict had escalated into an all-out war (Library of Congress).

In June of 1992, Azerbaijan elected a new President, Abulfaz Elchibay.  He was the leader of the PFA and a former dissident and political prisoner.  Yet, within a year, the fighting with Armenia began falling to the favor of the Armenians; and by this time they had seized about one-third of Azerbaijan's territory (Virtual Azer.).  This resulted in a military rebellion against the new President Elshibay in June of 1993. 

One thing that this conflict accomplished was to confirm the interdependence of the transcaucasian nations.  The Armenian blockade of the important Azer. city of Nakhichevan, and the Azerbaijan's response of halting all rail traffic into and out of Armenia (effectively cutting the majority of its links with other nations) proved how much these nations depended on each other.  Still, fighting continued through 1994, where at said time, Armenia controlled roughly 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory outside of Nagorno-Karabakh (Brittany Net).    

  This conflict continues today, where the extremely poor countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan face the ever-growing problem of Refugees. 

"The actions taken by the government of Armenia in the context of the conflict over Nagorno - Karabakh are inconsistent with the territorial integrity and national sovereignty principles of the Helsinki Final Act. Armenia supports Nagorno - Karabakh separatists in Azerbaijan both militarily and financially. Nagorno - Karabakh forces, assisted by units of the Armenian armed forces, currently occupy the Nagorno - Karabakh region and surrounding areas in Azerbaijan. This violation and the restoration of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been taken up by the OSCE."(Virtual Azerbaijan).                                     William J. Clinton                                                     President of the United States of America

The war and resulting refugees has illicited the attention of the entire world. 


 Brittany Net:  Azerbaijan

 Library of Congress:  Federal Research Division

 Virtual Azerbaijan









Designed and maintained by Oldrich Kyn . If you want to send

a message to Oldrich Kyn  please click on the  following icon: